Stephan, a construction site worker, paid a terrible price for borrowing Rs 10,000 from a local money-lender.
When he failed to repay the loan, the money-lender snatched away his two-year-old son, held the infant captive for nearly a year and kept him chained to the floor.
The police on Saturday rescued the child, held by the money-lender as surety, from the woman’s house in Tumkur, 76 km from Bangalore.
Mumtaz, the money-lender, and her daughter Rihana have been arrested.
The police said Mumtaz and Rihana ran a business of lending money at exorbitant interest rates to families from below poverty line (BPL) category. They often used muscle power to recover loans and interest from the borrowers.
Two years ago, Stephan borrowed Rs 10,000 from Mumtaz but failed to repay the money. By the 18th month, the principal amount and interest had shot up and Mumtaz demanded that Stephan repay Rs 50,000.
‘Mumtaz then used local rowdies to threaten Stephan. One night, she barged into his house, snatched the infant and left. The rowdies beat up Stephan and threatened him against approaching the police. She told Stephan that she would keep the child as surety till he paid her Rs 50,000,’ a police officer said.
When Mumtaz’s neighbours became suspicious about the child as they felt she and her daughter were neglecting him, they informed the police. On Saturday, when the police visited Mumtaz, she tried to mislead them by claiming she had adopted the boy. But she failed to provide the adoption documents.
‘Besides, we were horrified to find that the child was chained and left on the floor with a food plate. It was a disgusting sight. The boy looked malnourished. We arrested both Mumtaz and Rihana. The boy is now in the care of the department of women and child welfare as he needs immediate medical attention. He will be treated for malnourishment and then handed over to Stephan,’ the police officer added.
Reyaz, Mumtaz’s husband, who was at home when the police visited them, escaped from the scene to evade arrest. Stephan was in tears when he saw his son’s condition.
‘I had borrowed the money to treat my wife’s illness. I had asked for more time from Mumtaz to return the principal amount. But she kept on hiking the interest deliberately. After she kidnapped my son, I approached her several times asking her to return the child on humanitarian grounds, but she threatened me every time,’ he alleged.
According to Dr Ashwini S., who is attending to the boy, the infant has suffered from lack of attention, care and affection.
‘He has not developed like a normal child because of lack of parental care.